How Opponents of Equality Utilize the “Brian Darlings” of the World to Fight their Dirty Campaigns
In the fight for equal, sovereign, democratic rights for the four million American citizens of Puerto Rico there are two kinds of people: 1) those who want to know and 2) those who wish they knew and speak as if they do.
Brian Darling is a true Vitruvian Man of ignorance when he attempts to speak about Puerto Rican affairs and the search for equal rights for all Americans in Puerto Rico. His lack of knowledge on the issue is breathtakingly evanescent at best, and maliciously and deliberately neglectful at worst.
No economic insight into the U.S. tax code and its reverberations throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Treasury. No grasp of Puerto Rico’s political history–since 1898 when the Americans took over, or even since 1952 when the so-called “Commonwealth” was instituted. No command of the most basic–and enumerated–constitutional powers of the Legislative Branch or honor for the American traditions of statehood and E Pluribus Unum. Mr. Darling’s dearth of knowledge on this issue should give us clues as to his scorched earth motives.
Darling’s most memorable piece came as a short, blog-type post for The Foundry (The Heritage Foundation’s blog) on April 27th, 2010 and titled “Puerto Rico Democracy Act: Legislation Biased in Favor of Statehood.” In the post, Darling (unsuccessfully) attempts to make a coherent argument against, principally, H.R. 2499 (the latest attempt to bring equality to Puerto Rico), generally, the costs of statehood, and, ignorantly, the traditional statehood process. Despite the title, Darling’s “argument” is two-fold: the plebiscite’s form is unfair and the costs of statehood too high.
An inconsistency right from the get go. If you pretend to care about the fairness of the process, then, why would you also mount an attack on the very process for which you seek fairness? Let us find out.
On the plebiscite’s fairness, Darling objects to the structure of the vote, which asks Puerto Ricans whether they wish to keep their current territorial status. If a majority of Puerto Ricans are not satisfied with the unequal status of “Commonwealth,” then they can vote against it, but if they like being unequal and enjoying less rights, then, they can keep “Commonwealth.”
If the first vote shows that a majority of Puerto Ricans wish to finally move forward on a constitutionally viable, sovereign form of government, then, they get a second vote on what that P-E-R-M-A-N-E-N-T status will be. At that point, Puerto Ricans will have to decide–after over 500 years of political subservience to a higher political entity, be it a king or a national legislature–which of the perpetual, equal, sovereignty-granting options they wish to establish as their form of government, and their options are limited: independence (in two varieties, but independence nonetheless) or statehood. That’s it. The U.S. Constitution does not afford any other remedy for territories.
Mr. Darling claims that because past plebiscites only asked Puerto Ricans to vote on the sovereign options (independence and statehood) on the same platform they were being asked about their current status ALL plebiscites must conform. In other words, Puerto Ricans were asked to choose a permanent option from choices that include the non-permanent option, so, according to Darling, all plebiscites should continue the half-century-old charade. That is what we call self-determining yourself out of self-determination. Brian Darling does not know anything about these pesky details. He cannot care about what he does not know. This is why he really believes that “Puerto Ricans have voted against statehood numerous times.”
Puerto Ricans have never voted against statehood, Darling. The most anybody can extrapolate from past plebiscites is that the American citizens of Puerto Rico want a change to the current territorial status, but they cannot get a straight process that provides them a chance to do that. H.R. 24 99, if nothing else, provided finality to this long issue by setting a timetable, which, incidentally, allowed Puerto Ricans to hold on to the current unequal status if they could muster the necessary majority vote. But the principle of “Majority Rules” seems to be another one of those pesky American traditions Darling would much rather ignore. H.R. 2499, as originally introduced, forced all parties involved, Americans in Puerto Rico and in the mainland (through Congress, Mr. Darling), to confront the situation head on and, most importantly, establish as a matter of national principle that the unequal relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico is not in either side’s long-term interest.
The reason Mr. Darling gets away with the blatant lack of respect for Puerto Rico’s democratic rights issues is because he is not alone in his buffoonery. Most of the criticism here contained can be widely applied to the multitude criticizing a process they do not understand.
Take, for example, Darling’s second line of attack on the process proposed on behalf of Puerto Ricans by their democratically elected representative and member of the statehood party, which in 2008 received super majorities in both chambers of the legislature and the mayorships of the island. The Congressional Budget Office, Darling adequately states, could not issue a score (i.e. dollar value) to H.R. 2499 because the legislation “only authorizes a vote.” Still, that was not enough for Brian “Premature” Darling. Although the CBO properly states that this is only a vote authorization with nothing to “score,” Darling wants everybody to believe that he has reliable sources that purport to know Puerto Rico’s “true” costs as a state.
Darling cites The Lexington Institute and, get this, his boss at The Heritage Foundation, Edwin Feulner. The Lexington Institute is the think-tank of choice of the PPD and we will confront their so-called research in the coming days. As for Darling’s boss, Dr. Feulner, well, if his statements about Puerto Rico are as reckless as his employee’s, then, I guess, that also makes him just as void of the same important ingredients mentioned above (i.e. insight into economic and political history of Puerto Rico, command of the controlling constitutional issues, and honor for established statehood precedent). Rather than deconstruct their economic theories about the possibility of Puerto Rico statehood and its costs, I would recommend Darling and all who live by this profile in ignorance to grab the authoritative report that, instead of describing future possibilities, describes current realities.
I speak of a book called Pay to the Order of Puerto Rico (Part I/Part II) by Alexander Odishelidze and Arthur Laffer (yeah, the “Curve” is named after him). These guys not only have done the hard research, but they have also bothered to understand the cultural, political, and status qualities that make Puerto Rico. Pay to the Order of Puerto Rico examines, in-depth, the status situation from a variety of critical angles. Odishlidze and Laffer, most importantly, analyze the American tax code and find the costs of maintaining Puerto Rico as a territory are beyond what meets the eye. Not only does Puerto Rico’s inequality cost every American family $400 per year, but also billions more in loss tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury (both from the Puerto Rico Treasury and American and foreign companies based in Puerto Rico). Here are some real numbers we all can look at and bask in the ambiance of inequality and its true costs.
Finally, Darling’s biggest blunder.
He is not content with attempting to explain what makes a plebiscite “fair” (or rather, why H.R. 2499 is “unfair”) and trying to scare Americans on the mainland into continued inequality toward Americans in Puerto Rico, no, Darling goes farther. He takes a try at pandering some “Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1” populism into the mix: “If the people of Puerto Rico can vote, the people of the United States should have a vote.”
Darling does not seem to understand what a democratic republic is. “A vote by members of Congress,” advocates Darling, “is not enough to indicate [the] consent of the American people for Puerto Rican statehood.” As he knows (now), the American people do not run their country through referenda, and the matter of statehood is expressly reserved to the people’s representatives through Congress. You know, Darling, the U.S. Senators The Heritage Foundation claims you “educate.”